This week ZDNet's David Greenfield reviewed SocialText's new SocialCalc product which integrates spreadsheet's in to the Wiki. The coverage prompted me to comment. Having used Google's spreadsheet after many years of Lotus 1-2-3, Excel and even Supercalc I firmly believe anyone comparing these web-based spreadsheets with desktop versions on a function by function comparison is completely missing the point.
Michael Idinopulos understands this when we posts about SocialCalc on his blog. Numbers do not stand in isolation. We need to talk about the numbers. We usually need to share the numbers.
The vast majority of uses of spreadsheets are lists. It is probably only a small percentage of people that need the more complex functions. I further contend that the more complex functions are often used because we pull in information in bulk and need to filter and reformat. When we go to the collaborative model our needs and our ability to filter information changes. The Web based collaborative spreadsheet coupled with a mashup tool, like JackBe's Presto, open up tremendous opportunities to work with data in a much more robust manner.
So, when you are asked to compare the latest on-line spreadsheet with Excel remember this: It is not about the list of functions that are supported. The real value comes from the ability to collaborate around the data. Excel is still set back in the document-centric, personal paradigm. A world where spreadsheets are typically emailed between people. The new generation of web-based spreadsheets like SocialCalc and Google Spreadsheets put ease of collaboration over functionality. These products will continue to add functional richness but their real value is delivered right now through the ease with which it is possible to share their content.
Join us at HealthCampMd, June 14 2008!